ESRB’s Ongoing Evolution
To keep up with the innovative and constantly evolving video game industry, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) must be just as innovative and willing to grow and change.
The Growth of IARC
Established in 2013, the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) is the primary means of making ESRB age and content ratings accessible on as many devices as possible. IARC has assigned more than 5 million ratings to date and shows no signs of slowing down as adoption of the globally streamlined age classification process continues to expand.
In January 2017, the Oculus Store joined the Nintendo eShop, the Windows Store, and Google Play as the newest storefront to implement the IARC system. Virtual reality (VR) is one of the newest frontiers for games and, thanks to IARC, ESRB ratings are now available for every Oculus VR experience.
In December 2017, IARC also welcomed the Republic of Korea’s Governmental Game Ratings Board (GRAC) as its newest participating rating authority. IARC’s six participating rating authorities collectively represent more than 1.5 billion people in North America, Europe, Brazil, Germany, Australia, and now South Korea. IARC also assigns legally-compliant ratings unique to Russia and a generic rating for all other territories not represented by a participating rating authority. The ESRB, in concert with the other IARC rating authorities, are working hard to make sure that IARC’s growth trajectory continues throughout 2018 and beyond.
Advertising in the Digital Age
The ESRB’s Advertising Review Council (ARC) is responsible for implementing and enforcing industry-adopted advertising guidelines. Established in 2000, ARC's goal is to ensure that video game publishers follow standardized requirements for the prominent and accurate display of rating information, and that advertising is responsible, appropriate, truthful, and accurate. ARC also enforces guidelines that prohibit video game publishers from targeting audiences for whom products are not appropriate.
Working with IARC rating authorities, ARC developed a set of voluntary standardized guidelines in 2017 for ratings display requirements, target marketing, content restrictions in advertising, and age-gating of mature content for developers releasing games and apps with ratings assigned via the IARC process.
With these new IARC guidelines in place, game developers and publishers can more easily launch international advertising campaigns, while providing parents with consistent guidance in advertisements and other marketing materials about which games are appropriate for their family.
Prioritizing Privacy in a Connected World
Since it was recognized by the Federal Trade Commission as a Safe Harbor Program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 2001, ESRB Privacy Certified (EPC) has been on the forefront of privacy protection.
In 2017, EPC services continued to expand into the Internet of Things market, working with two of the largest toy companies in the world to certify that their internet-connected toys and childcare devices comply with COPPA. As a result, parents can rest assured that, when they see EPC’s seal on connected toy packaging, their children’s personal information is not collected or used without their knowledge and consent.
As the industry’s shift to digital and mobile distribution platforms continues, the ESRB’s focus will remain on ensuring that its ratings are accessible by parents on any device their children play games, while also meeting the needs of an ever-changing industry.
Whether it be streamlining the rating process, adjusting advertising guidelines, or mastering new privacy regulations, the organization’s mission to help protect publishers, developers, gamers, consumers ,and especially parents, is the one constant in an industry where the only constant is change.